Wine Grape Diversity Under Threat

Did you know that there are over 5,000 varieties of wine grape?

These predominantly come from just two families, Vitis Vinifera that is mostly grown in Europe, and Vitis Labrusca that is native to Canada and the eastern United States.

Despite this huge amount of choice over 70% of the world’s wine comes from just 30 varieties of grape.

In fact, in 2010 around a third of the grapes planted were from just seven varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading a pack including Merlot, Tempranillo and Chardonnay.

Vineyards around the world have been slowly replacing the less popular varieties with the ones that produce more popular wines. In doing this growers have enhanced those varieties allowing them to produce bigger yields and better grapes.

This selective growing means that it is likely over time that the rest of those 5,000 varieties will be lost as they are no longer grown. In the future that might mean we will have less choice in what we drink, which would be a shame!

Worried? If so, fear not!

Fernando Martínez de Toda based at the University of La Rioja in Spain, is doing something about it. He noticed the loss of rare grape varieties and started storing them away. He also began working with growers to reintroduce rare varieties where they could.

Today his work to preserve the genetic diversity of grapes is one of a number of similar initiatives happening in Europe.

We are of course in love with Tempranillo (and our Beronia Rioja 2009 Reserva) but it is great to know that our pursuit of this amazing grape doesn’t have to mean the extinction of other grapes.

The full story is in The Guardian. The University of Adelaide’s Wine Economics Research Centre published a report on grape varieties grown around the world.

Image by Justus Hayes [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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